Theatre Exile Exposes the Flaws That Exist Within All of Us in 2015-2016 Season with Rizzo, Smoke and The Invisible Hand

Hailed or hated? Dominant or sub? Good or evil? Ideologies clash as Theatre Exile presents its 2015-2016 season with three plays that call into question where the moral center lies. Every action has a consequence when boundaries are crossed in the struggle for the upper hand. Explore the gray area of the human condition in the world premiere of Rizzo by Bruce Graham, and the Philadelphia premieres of Smoke by Kim Davies and The Invisible Hand by Ayad Akhtar.  Tickets on sale now - click here!

Theatre Exile kicks off the season with the world premiere of Rizzo by award-winning playwright and South Philadelphia resident Bruce Graham. Based roughly on Sal Paolantonio’s best-selling book (Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America), Graham brings one of the most divisive figures in Philadelphia’s history to the stage October 15 through November 8, 2015 (Opening Night October 21, 2015) at Christ Church Neighborhood House (20 N American Street).

From beat cop, to Police Commissioner, to Mayor of Philadelphia, this highly anticipated production explores the life of Frank ‘Big Bambino’ Rizzo as he prepares for the 1991 mayoral election. A big guy that left an even bigger impression, Rizzo governed with a street-brawlers bravado that both cooled and fanned the flames of racial unrest. After two terms in office, voters were about to cast another ballot for their revered hero or against the villain they inadvertently helped create. As the play jumps back in time through Rizzo’s life, his Shakespearian complexity and unfiltered opinion brings to light what made this “larger than life” man both revered and reviled by so many. Founding Artistic Director Joe Canuso will direct, with Barrymore Award-winning actor Scott Greer playing the role of Rizzo. Rizzo is Theatre Exile’s first commissioned play for development, made possible with funding from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the National Endowment for the Arts.  

Following Rizzo, Theatre Exile continues to press the limits of morality, but on a much more personal scale, with the Philadelphia premiere of Smoke by Kim Davies from February 18 to March 13, 2016 (Opening Night February 24, 2016). Theatre Exile’s home stage, Studio X (1340 S. 13th Street), is the intimate setting for this disquieting erotic thriller that exposes what may lie under our deepest self-deceptions. John and Julie meet at a kink play party in New York City. She’s an aspiring college dropout and he a jaded wannabe artist—they instantly connect. With desires bared, knives out and sex an open-ended question; a playful game of cat and mouse heats up and becomes a dangerous struggle for power that pushes them further than they'd ever thought they'd go. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Deborah Block, featuring Matteo Scammell.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Theatre Exile keeps the tension building with an explosive ending to the season with The Invisible Hand by Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar, from May 12 to June 5, 2015 (Opening Night May 18, 2015), at Studio X. This raw political thriller pits self-preservation vs. the people’s welfare as the playwright examines how society, money and power shape the good and evil within. Nick Bright, a highly successful player at a major investment bank is kidnapped and held for ransom by an Islamic militant group. As he awaits his fate in remote Pakistan and with no one negotiating for his release, he must take matters into his own hands.  Full of questionable alliances and moral bargaining, this Philadelphia premiere is a chilling examination of how far we will go to survive and the consequences of the choices we make. Theatre Exile’s Associate Artistic Director Matt Pfeiffer will direct, with Barrymore Award-winning actor Ian Merrill Peakes playing Nick Bright.

For the 19th season, Theatre Exile invites you to explore the struggle for power on a personal, local and global level as we expose the flaws that exist within us in three thought-provoking and beautifully crafted stories. Tickets for all 2015-2016 shows, as well as subscriptions, are on sale now or by phone (215) 218-4022.


Founded in 1996 by Joe Canuso and Trish Kelly, Theatre Exile was created by a group of artists who wanted to rattle the gates of the mainstream. Drawn to plays that delve into the complexities of the human condition and contain a sense of true Philadelphia grit and passion, Exile has produced 59 full-scale productions, including 14 world and 28 Philadelphia premieres. They were the first Philadelphia organization to produce such powerhouse playwrights as Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner Tracy Letts, Noah Haidle, Rona Munro, David Harrower, Annie Baker, Rajiv Joseph, Mike Bartlett, Sharr White and Lucas Hnath. For their excellence in producing theatre, they have received 60 Barrymore Award nominations, with nine awards total. TheatreExile believes in freedom of expression formulated through innovation, exploration and provocation, all while providing a safe and creative environment, in which local artists can grow, experiment and ultimately, find their own voice.